But do the Hip Like Pittsburgh Anyway?

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Mar 20 2013 at 6:06am #

Came across the linked article discussing the (apparent) failure of Richard Florida’s theories of redevelopment. But have they failed here, or is Pittsburgh the exception?


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Mar 20 2013 at 7:29am #

Pittsburgh is an unusual city — it suffered much less from “white flight” than comparable cities. I think this has something to do with Pittsburgh’s geography and insularity of its neighborhoods. So Pittsburgh may be the exception just because it’s lost less of its middle class than other cities, but doubt it is because we’ve done such a great job of implementing Florida’s theories.


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Mar 20 2013 at 7:41am #

Very interesting article. God my head hurts just thinking about these issues. I don’t even know where to begin to sort this out.
I give it kudos for going beyond being critical of Florida’s theories themselves (not a stretch) to pointing the finger at those who viewed those theories as a silver bullet solution to the problems of cities. A Monorail, so to speak.
To be fair, I think Florida’s biggest failure was the same one that innumerable soothsayers had, since his work began far in advance of the ’08 crash of everything, the failure to recognize that society was on an unsustainable growth thrill ride.
Also the abject failure of his narrative to recognize the importance of the establishment of families as the basic root of city stability, and his overriding reliance on the egoistic spending abilities of childless singles and couples. This implies a shallowness and transience, in reality characteristic of the second tier (or, negatively, false creative class) who follow the “true” creatives. I would propose that the “true” creatives, while looking for a place where the status quo is not rigidly set and and is somewhat fractured to allow that creativity, it would be wrong to assume that they will pick up and fly to the next hip spot. They simultaneously look for a place that will allow for setting down of roots, growth, and the long view of things. Possibly that is what is different about Pittsburgh.
Also, since I have to often cross I-79 on my way to work, with it’s insane and unending flow of vehicles off to both horizons, I have to report that the news of the death of the suburbs and sprawl is highly exaggerated.


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Mar 20 2013 at 7:54am #

From an outsider perspective, from someone who’s been spending lots of time here the past three years, I’d call Pittsburgh a Success story but not necessarily due to the application of any of Florida’s rationale. Those type of efforts seem evident in some spots to be sure but overall, it seems like a city that is in the midst of surviving and at the same time, becoming pretty hip.

From what I can tell, this city is built on several if not many groups of immigrants and their descendants have largely stuck around (this may affect the insularity of its neighborhoods to some degree, as mentioned above). I think that same insularity is also driven by the topography, as discussed in the first chapter of ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ if you’ve read it. Overall I’m saying this city seems to benefit from an unusual combination of factors that seem to have protected its original integrity, I guess…

To me, Hipsters are like Vampires; they’re okay when it’s just a few of them around but a large concentration is not a good thing. I grew up in Asheville NC, and unfortunately that beautiful town has been inundated. As mentioned in the article, Hipsters moved in and continued acting the way they did back home. Property values went way up along with taxes. Carpetbagging Hipsters came in droves and at one point, small business owners downtown were ready to run them out of town. They were everywhere, like a bunch of Tribbles!

My position is that Pittsburgh is intrinsically cool enough and has enough cool-as-hell people, that it will survive and flourish. And once the other Florida-centric urban failures are long gone or rebranded, Pittsburgh will still be plodding along, progressing on their own Yinzer Curve. PS: I really do think the terrain is the single-most important factor in keeping it like it is…

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